Lethal violence in Sweden at highest level in nearly 20 years: report

Sweden last year suffered the highest level of murder and manslaughter for at least 18 years, with 124 people losing their lives through violent attacks, according to the latest annual report from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå).

Lethal violence in Sweden at highest level in nearly 20 years: report
Police cordon off the crime scene after a shooting in Solna, Stockholm, in February. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

According to the report, last year saw the highest number of lethal violence cases since it began recording them in 2002.

“We had a declining trend of lethal violence which came to an end in 2012, and it’s lethal violence in criminal environments which is behind the increasing number of deaths,” Brå researcher Jonas Öberg told the Aftonbladet newspaper. “Lethal violence within couples is not growing.”

A full 48 of the 124 cases of lethal violence involved guns, with the number of fatal shootings in the Stockholm region more than doubling over the past two years, with 11 people shot dead in 2018, 18 in 2019 and 23 in 2020, according to the agency’s report on lethal violence

Öberg said that it was hard to say why there had been a higher level of lethal violence last year, and warned against seeking to pin the rise on a simple explanation like the ongoing pandemic.

“This is men killing men, and it’s young men, between 20-29 years old,” he said. “And it mostly involves guns, and it most of these murders happen outside.”

Here’s a chart from the report showing how the rise since 2012 has been entirely among men and boys (män/pojkar), which lethal violence involving women or girls slightly down. 

Here’s a chart from the report showing how the number of cases of lethal violence using a gun (med användning av skjutvapen), has risen almost every year since 2016. 

The total number of reported crimes overall increased by only one percent on 2019, with a total of 1.57m crimes reported, according to the agency’s main report for 2020.

Vandalism and drugs offences saw the sharpest rises, with 14 percent and 10 percent rise in reported cases respectively.

Brå researcher Stina Söderman said that the rise in drugs offences might simply reflect the fact that police have had more resources to focus on narcotics crimes as a result of the pandemic.

“They have cancelled all of their education programmes for instance, which has freed up a lot of time,” she told Aftonbladet.

Several crimes saw large reductions which Brå argued could be directly linked to the pandemic: reports of pickpocketing fell by 44 percent; reports of robberies in hotels, cafés, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and youth centres by 40 percent; and of robberies in schools, libraries, sports centres, churches and museums by 22 percent.

“Our judgement is that the reduction of these types of robberies is a consequence of the pandemic,” the report concluded.

Other crimes which saw a sharp drop in reports were ‘assault by an unknown person’, reports of which fell 12 percent for men and 10 percent for women on 2019, which the report said was also “probably affected by the pandemic”.

The number of reported rapes also grew by nine percent in 2020, with 9,360 rapes reported, but Brå researcher Stina Holmberg said that the agency’s analysis suggested that this was not linked to the pandemic.

“We have looked at it month-by-month and have not identified any pandemic effect,” she told Aftonbladet. “I think it started already before the pandemic arrives, and we haven’t seen any signs of anything happening in society, which would have had an effect which led to more rapes.”


At the same time, the number of reported assaults from someone known to the victim rose slightly, by 5 percent for women and 3 percent for men. 

There was also a strong regional variation in fatal shootings, with both the southern region, which includes Malmö, and the western region, which includes Gothenburg, seeing the number more than halve over the past two years.

The southern region had 13 fatal shootings in 2018, 11 in 2019 and just 6 in 2020, while the western region had 9 fatal shootings in 2018, 3 in 2019 and 4 in 2020.

Local police in Malmö have linked the fall in gun violence to both Operation Hoarfrost (Rimfrost), a concentration of police force in the city between November 2019 and April 2020, and to Sluta Skjut or ‘Stop Shooting’, a campaign based on the Group Violence Intervention anti-gang strategy pioneered in the US.

After Brå’s report, the opposition Moderate Party called for Sweden to increase the number of police in Stockholm to reduce the amount of violent crime in the city. 

“It’s noteworthy that the number of police in Stockholm is lower than it was five years ago,” Johan Forsell, the party’s justice spokesperson, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

“It’s strange that the government time after time chooses to send reinforcements to Malmö, for instance, but we haven’t seen similar shows of force in Stockholm.”

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Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.